They say that you should always save the best for last: that was definitely the case as N.C. Central University basketball gave attendees a show worth talking about as they faced off against rival N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University yesterday in McDougald-McLendon Arena.
The double-header, which was the final home game of the season for both NCCU teams, kicked off at 4:30 p.m. with the Lady Eagles.
Tension could be sensed early in the women’s game as players were aggressively going after every rebound and diving for loose balls.
Both teams struggled throughout the entire game, but saw plenty of action was seen in the paint. The Lady Eagles took advantage of their opponent’s mistakes to score 23 total points off turnovers and the fast break. Despite their shortcomings, the Lady Aggies went on a 9–2 run to go into halftime with a score of 29–30 in their favor.
With the scored tied in the fourth quarter, freshman guard Kieche White, who scored a game-high 22 points, put forth an bold effort to drive into the paint and attempt to earn her points at the line.
Nailing all of her clutch free throws would help White’s team get the lead at 57–56 with less than a minute left in the game, but last-minute mistakes cost NCCU their lead and had them give up a heartbreaking 60–57 victory to their rivals.
“The loss tonight was definitely indicative of what we’re capable of doing as a team,” explained head coach Trisha Stafford-Odom. “If that’s the no. 1 team in the MEAC… and they only beat us by 3, [then] that’s encouraging.”
The Lady Eagles end their regular season with 7–9 in MEAC play (9–20 overall).
The energy present during the women’s game carried over into the men’s as the arena was just about filled to capacity by the time the next game started at 7:30 p.m.
Defense was intense in the early stages of the game as neither team could gain any kind of advantage offensively.
One shining moment for NCCU came when junior center Raasean Davis made his presence felt in the paint and sent shockwaves through the crowd with an emphatic block on an Aggie during the first half.
Neither team backed down as A&T held only a 1-point lead of 27–26 going into the halftime break.
Despite the Aggie lead, Eagles basketball fought back hard in the second half with a scoring barrage.
Junior guard John Guerra got hot from deep to make back-to-back 3-pointers, one of which leading to a four-point play.
Raasean Davis and junior guard C.J. Wiggins doubled down on Guerra’s points, managing to score 21 and 10 points of their own respectively. Freshman guard Jordan Perkins became a major factor in scoring as well by dishing out a game-high 7 assists.
The Aggies were never able to retake the lead, losing with a final score of 70–59 Eagles to crush their hopes of an historic season.
Head coach LeVelle Moton was especially happy with the win because of who it was against
“We respect [A&T], but we don’t like them,” said Moton at the beginning of his post-game press conference.
Moton explained that the primary objective of the week prior to the game was to “just fight.”
“You throw a couple of punches and take a couple of punches. It’s always the last man standing, and normally that man is the one that refuses to lose.”
NCCU men’s basketball team finishes MEAC play with a record of 9–7 (15–15 overall).
Both the men’s and women’s team will see conference action one last time during the MEAC tournament, which begins for the no. 6-seeded men’s team with a game against Coppin State on March 6 at 6:30 p.m. and the no. 8-seeded women’s team facing S.C. State at 11 a.m. the same day.